Monitech
alcohol-bad-judgment

Maybe she thought it was dark, so she could get away. It’s hard to know what’s on some people’s minds when they’re intoxicated.

Not long ago a woman crashed into a power pole in Burlington, North Carolina at about 3 in the morning. The crash knocked out power in the intersection.

Sensing that she was in trouble, the driver reportedly left the scene and hid not too far away. The police arrived, looked up the owner of the vehicle, and then searched the area until they found her. She was booked for DWI as well as hit-and-run.

The question is, why would someone flee a crash scene and leave her truck, to be identified by the police? Absolutely nothing is gained by that move, and of course, the charges are compounded by the fleeing.

Judgment – You Notice When It’s Not There

The answer is in the power of alcohol to cloud judgment. Judgment comes into play in many areas of driving:

  • How fast to drive under given road conditions. This includes how much to slow down in areas where pedestrians might pop out, such as school zones and near parks
  • How much time one has to make a left turn against traffic when an oncoming vehicle approaches
  • How much distance should be left between one’s vehicle and the one in front

All of these judgments can spell the difference between a safe trip and one that ends in a collision – or worse. It’s safe to say that someone who judges that it’s a good idea to flee a crash scene is not capable of making good driving decisions. Bad judgment is one of the reasons the charge of DWI exists.

Often people who think they are “okay to drive” are considering their physical coordination after a drink or two. They’re not considering their judgment, which the alcohol would have rendered less effective. And that’s the Catch-22 of alcohol – it robs you of the ability to understand what it’s robbing you of.

nc-drunk-driving-laws

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is tireless in its efforts to get states’ drunk driving laws to conform to the highest standards of effectiveness. Recently the organization released its 2018 Report to the Nation, which rates US states on their anti-impaired driving efforts. According to MADD North Carolina is far from the worst, but there’s some work to be done.

First, the good news: North Carolina has a good system of sobriety checkpoints in place. MADD approves of them as a way of nabbing drunk drivers. The state also criminalizes the refusal of a sobriety test – another measure which takes drunk drivers off the roads.

As to the areas in which North Carolina needs to improve, here is MADD’s prescription:

  • All-offender ignition interlock law. North Carolina needs to mandate the devices, which prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking, for all drunk driving offenses, and not just repeat and high blood-alcohol offenses.
  • Compliance-based removing of interlocks. Ignition interlock devices should only be remove when the offender has passed a given number of months (usually four) with no failed tests.
  • Ignition interlocks available upon arrest.
  • Felony charge for child endangerment. North Carolina does prosecute drivers who drive drunk with a child, but it’s a misdemeanor charge. According to MADD, it should be a felony, as it is in a number of states.

The recommendations that MADD has made – not just for North Carolina, but for every state – are the result of a lot of study into what measures work to reduce the number of alcohol-related road fatalities. The general trend is toward the adoption of these laws. We hope North Carolina takes MADD’s recommendation seriously and steps up its anti-DWI game soon.

game-plan-super-bowl-diagram

You’ve probably got plans for Super Bowl Sunday, and it probably involves friends, food, and drink, as well as, of course, the Eagles-Patriots game.

Here’s something to ponder: have you thought about getting home after the game? Whether you’re attending a party, just getting together with friends, or heading down to a sports bar, if you’re drinking you’ll need a sober ride home. If you’re hosting a party, you’ll need to make sure that your friends get home safely.

Here are the elements of your Post-Super Bowl safety strategy:

  • Designate a driver now. Don’t wait until the party, and certainly don’t wait until everyone has had a beer.
  • If no one agrees to be a DD, then get yourself dropped off at wherever you’ll be watching the game. Arrange a ride for afterwards. You might get hit by surge pricing if you depend on rideshare services, so keep that in mind.

If you’re hosting the Super Bowl gathering, keep these tips in mind:

  • Ask your guests to arrange their designated drivers
  • Serve food with the drinks. This helps the alcohol get absorbed more slowly.
  • Have non-alcoholic drinks available.
  • Stop the alcohol for the last quarter. You can bring out dessert with coffee as your excuse.

If you’re the designated driver:

  • Drive carefully on Sunday. Not everyone has read these tips, so there will be some impaired drivers out there. You need to be on the defensive.

That’s it. Enjoy the game – see you next week!

man-walks-into-dwi-arrest

Sometimes police spot drunk drivers on the road. Sometimes they stake out bars and taverns and wait for patrons to stagger into a DWI arrest. Sometimes they get called to a crash, and the driver turns out to be drunk. And of course, police in states like North Carolina man checkpoints to catch drunk drivers there.

But sometimes a drunk driver just delivers himself to the cops.

A group of Johnston County state troopers were holding their monthly meeting at a fire station when a man named Chad William Johnson walked in to drop off a job application. He immediately started shaking the troopers’ hands and thanking them for his service.

The cops notice the odor of alcohol, so one of the troopers gave Johnson a breathalyzer test, which he failed. In fact, he registered .18 BAC, more than twice the legal limit for intoxication. Since he had driven to the fire station, he was arrested for DWI and released on bond.

Was that fair? Absolutely. A driver who doesn’t notice a dozen or more patrol cars in a fire station parking lot is obviously not equipped to notice pedestrians or other unexpected road obstacles. And anyone who would drop off a job application in that condition is obviously not in possession of good judgment – another requirement for safe driving.

Most impaired drivers give cops more of a run for their money before they are caught. A good many cause damage, injury, even death, so all in all it’s fortunate that this driver was caught and taken off the road before anything happened.

And since the offender’s blood alcohol concentration was above .15, he should be getting an ignition interlock device in his vehicle, which will prevent him from starting the engine if he drinks.

No word yet as to whether he got the job.

jail-for-dwi

A glitch in North Carolina’s penal system is short-changing the state’s efforts to reform drunk drivers.

An article in The Marshall Project tells the story of North Carolina DWI offenders who are serving time – years – in jails that are meant for short-term stays. As a result, these offenders have no access to the facilities that prisons offer: drug and alcohol treatment, job training, and education.

Jail For DWI: How Good Intentions Fail

These offenders are in jails because North Carolina decided to reduce the state’s prison population in 2011 with the Justice Reinvestment Act. Misdemeanor offenders, including DWI offenders, were sent to jails instead of state prisons. At the same time, the state was getting tougher on drunk drivers, imposing mandatory sentences on certain DWI offenses. Both these moves had good intentions: the first was designed to reduce state spending and divert funds directly into communities. The second was to reduce drunk driving by getting tough on serious offenders.

There was a problem: as a result of these two moves, repeat DWI offenders, people with alcohol problems and other substance issues, are being sent to local jails where they get no treatment. When they are released, the chances are they will drive drunk again.

What Works: Sobriety Court Plus Ignition Interlocks

The most effective system for dealing with DWI offenders is the sobriety court/ignition interlock combination, which has been praised for the success this method has found in, for example, Michigan:

  • Offenders receive direct supervision by an officer who ensures that all aspects of the program are being followed.
  • Offenders go to regular treatment sessions and the results are shared with officers.
  • The court ensures that an ignition interlock – a device which prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking – is installed on the offender’s vehicle. In non-supervised settings, a large percentage of offenders don’t comply with the interlock order.
  • The interlock ensures that an offender retains driving privileges, and can therefore get to treatment.
  • The expense of incarceration is avoided.
  • Offenders can maintain or improve their employment situation, which would not be possible without the interlock and supervision.

Naturally, jail for DWI is sometimes called for. But in cases of long-term imprisonment, offenders must have access to treatment for the issues which caused them to be there. Making people sit in a local jail, without treatment, proper exercise facilities, or opportunities for education or self-betterment, is no way to improve a social ill.

You can’t imprison your way out of an alcohol problem. Better solutions are out there, at least for some of the offenders who are now in North Carolina’s jails.

mesa-drunk-drivers

It takes a lot of things to fight impaired driving: commitment, organization, and public support. Also police officers, cars, technology and good laws.

And money. Can’t do much without money to pay for the police and technology. Fortunately, the city of Mesa, Arizona has received a shot in the arm, in the form of 6 highway safety grants from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS).

The grants, which total well over a half million dollars, are in direct support of six areas of public safety:

  • DUI Abatement: Police personnel overtime, DUI task force events, and employee-related DUI enforcement expenses
  • DUI Enforcement Overtime: Aiding contiuous DUI enforcement, including holidays
  • Traffic Enforcement Overtime: To promote back to school safety and speed enforcement
  • Accident Investigation Training: Collision reconstruction
  • Accident Investigation Releated Materials & Supplies: Computers and monitors for detectives
  • Liquid Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer: 50% funding of a device for screening blood samples for intoxicating substances

The Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety is a linchpin of the state’s highway safety efforts.  The organization promotes public awareness of highway safety issues, and funds programs to fight speeding and impaired driving, and increase seat belt use, among other activities.

Those who think that DUI enforcement is largely a matter of pulling over suspicious drivers and giving them a breath test (though that is part of it) will be surprised at how much else is involved. The GOHS is aware that the better funded anti-drunk driving efforts are, the fewer Mesa drunk drivers will end up on the road. That makes them safer for everyone. We think it’s money well spent.

spouse-use-car-ignition-interlock-installed

If you’ve just been ordered to have an ignition interlock installed in your vehicle, you probably have some questions. One of the most common is: will my wife (or husband) be able to use my car after the interlock is put in?

Anyone Can Use an Interlock-Equipped Vehicle

The answer is that anyone can use a vehicle on which an ignition interlock has been installed. You just need to make sure of two things:

  1. The person using the vehicle needs to know how to operate it. That means the proper volume of breath and the right “hum” tone. Sometimes an interlock takes a bit of getting used to. At Monitech we’ll be happy to train anyone who uses your vehicle in the operation of the interlock device, at no charge.
  2. More important, you are responsible for any failed tests that occur with the interlock. So if you lend the car to a friend who fails the test due to drinking, you could be hit with the violation.

Knowing this, it’s important to allow a vehicle with an ignition interlock installed to be used only by people you know, and whom you trust to drive while sober. The device records every test and every driving session, but according to most state laws, the one ordered to install the interlock is the one to whom violations will be counted against.

Apart from exercising some caution about whom you let use your vehicle, there’s not much to owning and driving an interlock-equipped car. The purpose of the device is not to restrict but to enable – it enables motorists who are alcohol-free to go about their lives and drive where they want, legally and safely.

The answers to all your other ignition interlock questions here.

Happy driving to you and your spouse!

3-percent-arizona-drivers-dumb

First, let’s get our terms straight. “Dumb” is a colloquial term meaning “showing a lack of intelligence,” evidenced by the making of bad or foolish decisions. “3 percent” is derived from 2,000 drivers caught driving impaired out of 63,000 stopped in a 5-week period. “Arizona drivers” are, well, drivers in Arizona.

The campaign took place on Arizona roads between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Out of those 2,000 DUIs, more than 400 were extreme cases (a blood alcohol level over .15) and about 260 were aggravated cases (cases made more severe because of circumstances like a minor in the vehicle, injury or death, or driving with a suspended license.

You might think, “Only 3 percent?” Not so bad. But think of how many cars you encounter on the roads every day, coming toward you on the highway? It probably numbers in the hundreds, and these numbers suggest that 3 out of every hundred drivers – and not just Arizona drivers – are not able to fully control their vehicle.

Arizona Drivers Face Severe DUI Consequences

Despite being impaired, those 3 out of 100 Arizona drivers decided to get behind the wheel and risk some of the toughest DUI penalties in the nation.

  • Jail time – from 10 days for a first offense to 2 years for aggravated DUI
  • Fines of $1,250 to 3,250
  • Alcohol screening, treatment, and education
  • Ignition interlock for all offenses
  • Community service

Add to that the legal fees and the higher insurance costs after a DUI, and “dumb” is about the only word to use for the decision to drink and drive.

Yet 2,000 people were caught. And many more did it and weren’t caught – this time.

Given how many impaired drivers are on Arizona’s roads, you’re advised to take care. And more important, stay out of that 3 percent who decide they’re okay to drive even though they’re under the influence. You might not be perfect, but you’re not dumb, are you?

dwi-checkpoint-locations

North Carolina is a checkpoint state – the constitution allows police to set up a checkpoint to stop drivers and ask if they’ve been drinking. It’s not hard to figure out where they are – websites and social media feeds broadcast their location so drivers never need to be surprised by them.

In some states the police must broadcast the location of the checkpoint in advance, but North Carolina only requires that blue lights are flashing. And if you turn around to avoid the checkpoint, the police can stop you and ask you why.

Tweeting DWI Checkpoint Locations: Enabling DWIs?

Some, police spokespeople, including the Iredell County Firewire Facebook feed, claim that posting roadblock info is merely helping drunk drivers avoid detection. And it’s true that an impaired driver could check a warning site and take a different route.

But the First Amendment allows citizens to inform others of police activities, and there’s nothing secret about the checkpoints.

How Sobriety Checkpoints Help No Matter What

Even if the warning sites help a few drivers evade the breathalyzer, the checkpoints still catch a fair number. And more important, the presence of the roadblocks has a salutary effect on people heading out for a social gathering – it reminds them that police are out in force, and that they had better stay sober if they’re driving home.

Not all states use checkpoints, and the constitutional disagreements about stopping vehicles randomly will no doubt continue. But states in which they are permitted do benefit from them – even when people don’t get near them.

happy-new-year-monitech

A lot has happened this year. And if you care about drunk driving, you had a lot to think about. At Monitech we’ve been thinking about it too.

We’ve been thinking about all the unintended consequences of drunk driving.  And how things like a lack of sleep can cause students to drive drunk, and why women have it tougher in general in the battle to keep from driving while impaired.

We’ve been thinking about the victims of drunk driving, including controversies about roadside memorials. We talked about how low gas prices equaled more drunk driving deaths.

In trying to keep drivers sober, we delved into the psychology of drunk drivers, and the physiology of drinking and driving.

And then, we were writing about self-driving cars, because everyone was.

We covered a lot of ignition interlock topics, of course. How you can’t fool them. How to explain them away to your date. And why they work to reduce drunk driving deaths.

But mostly, we tried to get the idea across that drunk driving is a really bad idea. It takes some 10,000 American lives each year, and injures many times more than that. It costs the offender a lot, and costs the taxpayer big time as well.

This year, we hope you enjoy safe, sober driving. Keep reading, and keep in touch.

Happy New Year from Monitech Ignition Interlock

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